August 29, 2017
By Erich Burnett
Five men in colorful suits
Photo credit: Red Light Management

Progressive bluegrass quintet’s concert marks the first date of the 2017-18 Artist Recital Series at Oberlin.

Punch Brothers, the virtuosic bluegrass ensemble fronted by mandolin player Chris Thile and including Oberlin graduate Chris Eldridge ’04 on guitar, will open the 2017-18 Artist Recital Series with an 8 p.m. performance in Finney Chapel on Thursday, September 28.

The show marks the Artist Recital Series debut of a band that has made an indelible mark on American music—and on Oberlin—in recent years. Cross-pollinating traditional bluegrass music with classical influences and more, the band earned acclaim for its 2015 album The Phosphorescent Blues and the Grammy-nominated single “Julep.”

Since 2013, Punch Brothers have been in residence at Oberlin as the signature artists in the conservatory’s American Roots Residency program, established by actor-comedian Ed Helms, a 1996 Oberlin College graduate and an avid musician. In that role, they have interacted extensively with Oberlin students in a variety of settings, from master classes and performances to listening parties and off-the-cuff jam sessions on campus.

In December 2014, Punch Brothers earned the rare distinction Oberlin Affiliate Scholars in recognition of their significant professional achievement and with the purpose of facilitating artistic or scholarly endeavor in association with Oberlin.

Formed in 2006, Punch Brothers boast members who hail from all over the musical map, from bluegrass to jazz to classical. MacArthur Award-winner Thile has elevated mandolin playing from its folk origins to the finest in jazz improvisation and classical performance. In 2015 he became host of public radio’s A Prairie Home Companion, hand-selected as successor to the program’s legendary creator, Garrison Keillor. In April 2017, Thile released the album Bach Trios with Yo-Yo Ma and Edgar Meyer.

Oberlin College graduate Eldridge devoted his student years to creating an independent major in bluegrass music, working closely with Professor of Jazz Guitar Bobby Ferrazza. Fiddle player Gabe Witcher has more than 300 records and countless movie and television scores to his credit, including the 2006 Oscar winner Brokeback Mountain. Banjo player Noam Pikelny developed his bluegrass facility growing up in Chicago; he studied music at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana before striking out professionally and redefining the role of the instrument. Versatile bass player Paul Kowert, a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, has performed with orchestras as a soloist and section member in such internationally renowned venues as Switzerland’s Verbier Festival.

RESERVE YOUR SEAT NOW: Tickets for Punch Brothers at Oberlin are $35 ($30 for seniors, members of the military, and Oberlin faculty, staff, and alumni, and just $10 for all students). Individual tickets go on sale Tuesday, August 29, and discounts for Artist Recital Series subscription packages are available. For tickets and more information, call 800-371-0178, go to oberlin.edu/artsguide, or visit Oberlin’s Central Ticket Service in the Hall Auditorium lobby (67 N. Main St.) weekdays from noon to 5 p.m.

ABOUT THE ARTIST RECITAL SERIES: An Oberlin tradition since 1878, the Artist Recital Series is one of the oldest continuing concert series in the United States and a cornerstone of Oberlin’s annual arts programming. Since the series’ inception, more than 1,000 of the world’s most accomplished musicians, conductors, orchestras, and chamber ensembles have graced the stage of historic Finney Chapel.

The 2017-18 Artist Recital Series continues with The Cleveland Orchestra’s annual visit to Oberlin on Friday, October 3. The all-Beethoven program will include the master’s iconic Fifth Symphony. For tickets and more information about all Artist Recital Series concerts, visit oberlin.edu/artsguide.

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